A blood-red sunrise
Just after 7 AM DI Helen Grace stumbles on a dead woman lying in a country road. She has been brutally shot for no apparent reason.
Two hours later
At gunpoint a shopkeeper is forced to close up by two assailants. Before the police can get inside a single gunshot rings out.
A rampage of revenge?
Over one long day the town of Southampton is terrorized by two young killers who appear to be killing at random.
For DI Helen Grace, it’s a race against time. Uncover why they’re doing this and who’s next or always be a step behind – until the sun sets on this bloody killing spree.
I did not enjoy this book as much as I’d have liked.
I am always on the lookout for a British crime writer who manages to set a novel in Britain and make me believe it truly happened. I am one of those from the generation who grew up on American crime drama on TV, and as such, it takes a very high standard to sway my opinion. That being said, there are a few, Luther, in particular, I feel is incredibly well written, produced and acted. Neil Cross is still not, however, an author whose work I have read much of. Sadly there are not many other British authors who appeal to me in the same way that American authors do. Perhaps it is the fact that I have no experience of America, so really most storylines will fly with me, the more outlandish the better. But the British police force are not used to dealing with skin-stripping serial killers or gun rampages in quite the same way. So when a British author attempts it, it has to be good and believable.
This book didn’t tick all the boxes for me. It was fast-paced, but I feel as though the use of guns in this story didn’t ring true to me and made the whole thing feel a bit forced.
This is book 7 in the series, and although I read it as a stand-alone novel, certainly something which you can do with this book, I wonder if reading a few earlier novels would have warmed me to the characters and therefore the storyline.
The English Patterson?
Arlidge is a good writer. He has amassed a total of 7 novels in less than 3 years. a feat that only the likes of Patterson appear to be able to succeed at for any length of time. And once you open one of his novels, you can see that the resemblance does not cease there. His chapters are short, Patterson short. His stories are fast-paced and full of strong, well-defined characters, all of whom have a detailed and dramatic backstory.
Looking at his career he is perfectly set for writing this type of novel. A screenwriter by trade, he spends his days writing stories and screenplays for TV. Therefore, it is not a surprise that he can churn out his novels in such a short space of time.
I can’t help but feel that M J Arlidge is one of the authors who sparked me to write the article ‘Female authors are taking over – or are they? A male author writing a story that features some very strong female characters and who feels the need to initialise his name.
In recent months, the numerous incidences of sexism and chauvinism in many industries have had a very harsh spotlight shone upon it, rightly so. But I guess I would just like to live in an equal society. This article in the guardian “Meet the male writers who hide their gender to attract female readers” made me angry! Why should anyone have to hide their gender, race, sexual preference, or in fact any other aspect of what makes them who they are, in order to attract readers? And yet, publishing houses across the world are still insisting that both men and women alike amend certain aspects of who they are in order to attract the required amount of readers to their work. Why is this? Because, we as humans are all capable of such discrimination and until such time as we discard these psychological barriers, we will never live in a fair and just world.
The Rivers of London is a series of books based on the life and career of one Peter Grant, a police constable who is thrown into the world of Newtonian magic. He becomes an apprentice to the magic practitioner, Nightingale, after being caught up in a magical case.
This is a great series for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, comic timing, magic, fantasy, sci-fi, police procedural novels, London and it’s history and architecture. It basically has all the bases covered, and if you listen to the unabridged audiobooks then you also get the brilliantly vast and extensive talents of Kobna Holbrook-Smith as he seamlessly rattles off the many and varied accents which Ben Aaronovitch has given his characters.
One of the things which makes this such a great series is the fact that the story is not limited to the main novels of the series. Ben has also worked with a talented team to produce comics, graphic novels, and audiobooks which support the main storyline by expanding out the worldview of the Rivers of London series, fleshing out the characters, introducing new characters and providing explanations for character traits and back history.
Ben Aaronovitch is a British screenwriter and novelist. He has written for such programs as Dr. Who, Casualty, Blakes 7.
See below for information on each novel, graphic novel, comic and audiobook as well as information regarding who Ben Aaronovitch has worked on. I have also made a brief bio for some of the main re-occurring characters, this is not conclusive and should not give away any major spoilers for the series.
This page will be updated as my reviews of each book are published and as Ben Aaronovitch publishes more work. Watch this space!
Book 1 – Rivers of London
Published: 10th January 2011
Set in: January to June 2012
My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (and as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.
I was my dad’s vinyl-wallah: I changed his records while he lounged around drinking tea, and that’s how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And it’s why, when Dr. Walid called me to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognised the tune it was playing. Something violently supernatural had happened to the victim, strong enough to leave its imprint like a wax cylinder recording. Cyrus Wilkinson, part-time jazz saxophonist, and full-time accountant had apparently dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig in a Soho jazz club. He wasn’t the first.
Book 3 – Whispers Under Ground
Published: 21st June 2012
Set in: December 2012
Peter Grant is learning magic fast. And it’s just as well – he’s already had run-ins with the deadly supernatural children of the Thames and a terrifying killer in Soho. Progression in the Police Force is less easy. Especially when you work in a department of two. A department that doesn’t even officially exist. A department that if you did describe it to most people would get you laughed at. And then there’s his love life. The last person he fell for ended up seriously dead. It wasn’t his fault, but still.
Now, something horrible is happening in the labyrinth of tunnels that make up the tube system that honeycombs the ancient foundations of London. And delays on the Northern line is the very least of it. Time to call in the Met’s Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, aka ‘The Folly’. Time to call in PC Peter Grant, Britain’s Last Wizard.
Book 4 – Broken Homes
Published: 25th July 2013
Set in: March/April 2013
A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil – an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common garden serial killer?
Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case, a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.
So far so London.
But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on an housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.
Is there a connection?
And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?
Full of warmth, sly humour and a rich cornucopia of things you never knew about London, Aaronovitch’s series has swiftly added Grant’s magical London to Rebus’ Edinburgh and Morse’s Oxford as a destination of choice for those who love their crime with something a little extra.
Graphic Novel 1 – Body Work
Published: July to November 2015, Collected 1st November 2016
Peter Grant looks look your average London police officer, but he is actually a part-time wizard in a very elite branch of the Metropolitan Police. It’s his job to investigate those crimes that regular cops don’t like to talk about because they often involve vampires or strange things in Underground tunnels. Peter’s latest case features a self-driving killer automobile, a Serbian refugee, the Most Haunted Car in England, a handsome drug dealer with a nice paisley scarf and a seemingly harmless wooden bench with a dark past! Collecting the sell-out smash mini-series, Rivers of London: Body Work!
Book 5 – Foxglove Summer
Published: 13th November 2014
Set in: August 2013
In the fifth of his bestselling series, Ben Aaronovitch takes Peter Grant out of whatever comfort zone he might have found and takes him out of London – to a small village in Herefordshire where the local police are reluctant to admit that there might be a supernatural element to the disappearance of some local children. But while you can take the London copper out of London you can’t take the London out of the copper.
Graphic Novel 2 – Night Witch
Published: Parts 1-3 – 16 March 2016 through 18 May 2016, collected 1 November 2016
Press-ganged into helping a Russian oligarch hunt his missing daughter, PC Peter Grant and his boss, Thomas Nightingale, London’s only wizarding cops, find themselves caught up in a battle between Russian gunmen, a monstrous forest creature – and their nemesis: The Faceless Man. But as Grant and Nightingale close in on the missing girl, they discover that nothing about this case is what it seems! Signed copy available from Forbidden Planet
Graphic Novel 3 – Black Mould
Published: Parts 1-5 – 12 October 2016 through 8 March 2017, collected 25 July 2017
CSI meets Harry Potter in this fantastic new graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch, writer of the bestselling Rivers of London novel series! Something dark and slimy is dripping through the walls of suburban London. Not the usual stuff, this mould is possessed by some dark power full of bad intentions. Looks like it’s another case for London’s one and only trainee wizard cop, Police Constable Peter Grant, and his reluctant partner, Sahra Guleed!
There’s something going bump on the Metropolitan line and Sergeant Jaget Kumar knows exactly who to call.
It’s PC Peter Grant’s speciality . . .
Only it’s more than going ‘bump’. Traumatised travellers have been reporting strange encounters on their morning commute, with strangely dressed people trying to deliver an urgent message. Stranger still, despite calling the police themselves, within a few minutes the commuters have already forgotten the encounter – making the follow-up interviews rather difficult.
So with a little help from Abigail and Toby the ghost hunting dog, Peter and Jaget are heading out on a ghost hunting expedition.
Because finding the ghost and deciphering their urgent message might just be a matter of life and death.
Exclusive to Audio! Somewhere amongst the shadowy stacks and the many basements of the British library, something is very much amiss – and we’re not talking late returns here. Is it a ghost, or something much worse? PC Peter Grant really isn’t looking forward to finding out….
Book 6 – The Hanging Tree
Published: 3 November 2016 in the UK,31 January 2017 in the US
Set in: Undisclosed month in 2014
Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of PC Peter Grant or the Folly, even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But Lady Ty’s daughter was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour.
Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.
Graphic Novel 4 – Detective Stories
Published: Parts 1-4 7 June 2017 through 3 September 2017, collected 29 December 2017
CSI meets Harry Potter in this fantastic new graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch, writer of the bestselling Rivers of London supernatural police procedural crime novel series! An anthology series of stories featuring Police Constable Peter Grant, his partner, Sahra Guleed, and their associates, as they tackle supernatural crime on the streets of London! An all-new adventure for Ben Aaronvitch’s laconic, way-past-cool but slightly geeky trainee wizard and budding detective, Peter Grant! Tying directly into the Rivers of London continuity. Aaronovitch is joined by Doctor Who writer Andrew Cartmel for this gripping new series.
Vengeful Russian mobsters are looking to hire members of London’s own more-then-natural underworld to bring bloody retribution down on the witch Varvara.
However, the ex-Soviet sorcerer is under the protective wing of London’s own wizarding cop, Peter Grant (now a proper detective and everything), and to get the attention of Grant and his colleagues, the daughter of a prominent Russian oligarch is kidnapped by parties unknown but possibly fox-like.
What makes it worse is that Peter is going to have to leave his beloved London and gasp go out into the countryside! And when there’s trees and fields and wildlife involved, things never end well.
When two of the less well-behaved River goddesses, Chelsea and Olympia, decide to earn a few quid on the side, Peter and Bev find themselves drawn into a sordid cannabis-smuggling operation, controlled by London’s new queenpin of crime – the brutal and beautiful Hoodette!
October, 1957. A serial killer terrorising the women of Cumbria has moved to the streets of London, with Constable Angus Strallen hot on his heels.
But this murderer has special abilities, and Strallen soon realises he needs the help of an old friend from the front lines who can match this madman’s power, London’s own wizarding police officer, Thomas Nightingale. As the pair move in closer, it quickly becomes clear that murder is not this man’s only intent.
Tying directly into the continuity of the Rivers of London novels and revealing secrets about Nightingale’s past that readers have long-hoped to find out!
Set in: Germany – undisclosed time sometime after Lies Sleeping ends
Featuring: Tobias Winter and Vanessa Sommer
Trier is famous for wine, Romans and for being Germany’s oldest city. So when a man is found dead with, his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth.
Fortunately, this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything.
Enter Investigator Tobias Winter, whose aim is to get in, deal with the problem, and get out with the minimum of fuss, personal danger, and paperwork. With the help of a frighteningly enthusiastic local cop, Vanessa Sommer, he’s quick to link the first victim to a group of ordinary middle-aged men – and to realise they may have accidentally reawakened a bloody conflict from a previous century. But the rot is still spreading, literally and with the suspect list extending to people born before Frederick the Great solving the case may mean unearthing the city’s secret magical history.
. . . so long as that history doesn’t kill them first.
Book 8 – False Value
Due out: November 2019 – release pushed back to 20th February 2020
Set in: After the events of Lies sleeping
Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm. Rather than sit around, he takes a job with émigré Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner’s brand new London start up – the Serious Cybernetics Company.
Drawn into the orbit of Old Street’s famous ‘silicon roundabout’, Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. Compared to his last job, Peter thinks it should be a doddle. But magic is not finished with Mama Grant’s favourite son.
Because Terrence Skinner has a secret hidden in the bowels of the SCC. A technology that stretches back to Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, and forward to the future of artificial intelligence. A secret that is just as magical as it technological – and just as dangerous.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my colleagues was talking about this book at work and it had me intrigued. A couple of her friends back home in Ireland ‘sold’ it to her as “Oh my god, this book is so you!”
After a bit of debate about where to purchase a book (she’s apparently not a reader by nature) I purchased a copy of the book for her.
As someone who is not a reader, she expected to take months to get through this book, however, she managed it in just over a week. Which I think is a testament to how well written and easy to read this book is.
The typeface is pretty large in this book and the chapters reasonably short. Not ‘Patterson’ short but short all the same. Approximately 4 pages each. This helps with the speed at which you read and I think ultimately adds to the ease of reading and keeping the pace up without it seeming like you are being rushed through the story.
My colleague was convinced that not being Irish, I’d need a translator to get through the book, she even offered to translate for me as I went along. I was surprised how little I did need translating, to be honest, although there were some definite Irishism’s which I needed explaining. See below my helpful guide.
West Coast Cooler – a wine cooler made from white (or Rose) and fruit flavouring, drunk copiously in this book (this may not be a strictly Irish drink, but I still had to ask). A West Coast Cooler and a pint of ice cubes being Aisling’s drink.
Shnake – a person who is just like a snake, a sly person, two-faced
Eejit – an idiot or a fool, but more often it’s used in an affectionate (yet still mocking!) manner.
To be honest I had more trouble reading the names of some of the characters than understanding the context of the writing. It’s like the Hermione situation all over again. I mean, everyone knows how to pronounce Siobhan right? (ShiVawn) but how do you pronounce Sadhbh? I still don’t know. My friend says Sive Em (like five with an S). I was always terrible at spoken languages at school, the pronunciation of words was always my downfall, still is.
Born in a small town named Borris and now living in Dublin with her family, Sarah seems to write what she knows. This book is about a country girl who works in Dublin and commutes daily for work. She started working as a journalist and in 2017 she went on to write this book with her long term friend.
Also born and raised in Borris, Emer has worked extensively in journalism and radio and has previously been an editor of the Daily Edge. She also lives in Dublin, with her three cats.
In 2017 they released this book and it instantly became a best seller.
“I think that most of the success of this book is that it rings true with a lot of girls. Girls a certain age who come from small towns and work in the ‘big smoke’. Not necessarily just from Ireland either.”
Emer is right of course. This book doesn’t just appeal to Irish girls, but any girl who knows what small-town life is like. The fact that everyone knows everyone’s business, the variety of people you meet but also the stagnancy and boredom that can go hand in hand with small-town living.
I actually loved this book. Ais has a naive innocence which gives the story a depth and really makes you feel for her when things don’t quite go to plan. She’s such a generous character who you warm to instantly, which makes all the ups and downs that much more emotional.
The reader follows her on the rollercoaster year of her life which sees her move to Dublin, break up with her long-time boyfriend and suffer family drama. Her journey may not seem that big to some, but for a small-town girl, it is one of self-discovery, excitement, tragedy, and happiness. A real-life story and one which we can all relate to on some level.
Emer and Sarah do a great job of writing Aisling and you can tell that they draw on their wealth of experience of being very similar to Aisling and the things she goes through.
Can’t wait for book number two!
Disclaimer: This review has been sat in my draft folder for over six weeks now. Review of book number two will be up shortly.
My Little Eye is a very unique take on the classic murder mystery. A story told technically from two different points of view but with the added bonus of an online true crime group adding their perspective.
It is the story told by Dominic the Detective working for the police department, and Clementine, the PHD student who joins an amateur online detective group and attempts to solve a series of murders carried out by ‘The Lover’, a sadistic serial killer who poses his victims after he murders them.
A rocket-paced, dark thriller for fans of Mark Billingham, Sharon Bolton and Luther. Can a group of true crime addicts take on the police to catch a serial killer?
Kiss the Girls – A young woman is found dead in her bedroom surrounded by rose petals- the latest victim of ‘The Lover’. Struggling under the weight of an internal investigation, DI Dominic Bell is no close to discovering the identity of the killer and time is running out.
And make them die – As the murders escalate, Clementine Starke joins an online true crime group determined to take justice in their own hands – to catch the killer before the police. hiding a dark secret, she takes greater risks to find new evidence and infiltrate the group.
As Starke and Bell get closer to cracking the case, neither of them realise they are being watched. the killer is close to them than they think, and he has his next victim – Clementine – firmly in his sights.
Thoughts about the blurb
Personally, I think that this blurb gives too much away. In my opinion, and it is just an opinion, a blurb should give you a set up for the story and perhaps a few tantalising nuggets of information to encourage you to read past the first chapter, which in most books would be introducing characters and setting the scene.
Often, if I am struggling to get into a book after the first chapter, I’ll skip a few pages to read on, if I then feel I’ve missed anything, I’ll double back to catch up.
NONE of this was necessary for My Little Eye.
The book itself
The book begins with a prologue. Written in the voice of one of ‘The Lovers’ victims, this is essentially a prologue to the kill. It sets the tension level really well and leaves you wanting much much more.
Monday – the first chapter is Clementine and it begins as so:
“They say I was dead for three thousand and six seconds. They say that when I woke up I was different, but I don’t know if that’s true.”
Chapter 1 is just over a page long, chapter two is just over two pages long. We continue in this pattern until the introduction of the online crime group and divert back to this pattern when small titbits of information need to be added to the story.
One thing that Stephanie Marland is very good at in her books, is pacing. She knows just when to speed things up with a short chapter to introduce more evidence and just when to include more characters with more viewpoints and thought-provoking clues.
My Little Eye is a great book. It follows a very familiar path of serial killers and police investigations, but where it differs from your average crime thriller or police procedural is with the introduction of this online true crime group and their lines of investigation. Often ahead of the police, they pool their expertise, knowledge and on some occasions the fact that they are not tied by rules and procedures, to solve the case.
Do they solve the case before the police? That would be telling.
I have been a fan of Stephanie Marland for a few years now. All be it, under her pseudonym of Stephanie Broadribb, or more accurately as her blogging name ‘Crime Thriller Girl’.
Taken from the introduction on her website:
Crime Thriller Girl (aka Steph Broadribb aka Stephanie Marland) leads a double life …
I started out as a corporate suit by day and a crime fiction blogger – Crime Thriller Girl (hence the name of my blog) by night. Now I’m a thriller writer, writing as Steph Broadribb and Stephanie Marland. I’m an avid reader of all things crime thriller and I love to connect with people who share the same passion for books.
I first discovered her whilst looking for bloggers who wrote about one of my favourite areas, crime fiction. She is one of the best. But not only does she write about crime and is friends with some of the biggest crime writers in the industry, she also writes crime. When I discovered that she wrote as Stephanie Broadribb, I downloaded Deep Down Dead and began to read.
“Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows …”
The Lori Anderson series is set in Florida and at first, I found it hard to reconcile a UK crime writer who sets their work in the USA. Why I found this so hard, I’m not really sure, I love Lee Child’s work and all of his work is set in the USA, in the US military in fact, and he was born in Coventry UK.
Once I got past the first few chapters though, I was hooked. The Lori Anderson series is fast-paced action from the get-go. Information is introduced into the story in much the same way that a grenade is introduced into a room.
This speed makes it ideal reading for commuting. When you get off that train, even if you have only travelled a mere couple of stations, you feel as though you have read one hell of a lot of the story.
A few months ago, I was lucky enough to attend an event at a local literary festival in which Stephanie Marland/Broadribb and her fellow author, Isabel Ashdown did a talk on ‘How to get published’. It was one of those talks which was designed to encourage you, the writer, to progress your work and your career in the right way, not just to dither around unsure where to go for help. What I took away , however, was just how much I wanted to read Stephanie’s new book ‘My Little Eye’.
Both authors read a passage from their newest books and I decided then and there to purchase both. Luckily there was a table manned by the local independent book shop, Barnards Books there selling copies and I was lucky enough to get them both signed.
I am actually quite ashamed that it has taken me this long to get around to reading and in fact finishing this book. The pace meant that I should have managed it within a week of the talk. Once I did pick it up and begin to read properly, it really did only take me a week.
It is a great story, gruesome in parts, but not unnecessarily so. I love the characters, especially Clementine, who Stephanie herself admits to rewriting in full on the second draft. The use of the online crime group to add intrigue and another dimension which really adds depth to the story. The lead characters, as well as the supporting characters, are fully developed and most have their own back story which gives reason and justification for their actions.
I’ve been seeing this book around for a while now and decided it was time to read it. Having been super busy with work, I knew I’d end up buying it and not reading it for months. Black Friday came around and Audible had a sale on some of the year’s bestsellers, a mere £2.50 per audiobook! Sold!
I downloaded it and spent just over a week listening to it on my way to and from work. Best £2.50 I’ve spent in ages. I would most certainly recommend this.
WINNER OF THE BOOKS ARE MY BAG NOVEL AWARD 2018 SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2018 SHORTLISTED FOR THE SPECSAVERS NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS 2018
You can buy a signed copy of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcasle by Stuart Turton at Forbidden Planet.
The problem with an audiobook
Audiobooks can be difficult though, I have a real fondness for a good audiobook read by a good narrator. Unfortunately, the narrator can add or take away so much from the story that they can really make or break it.
Having listened to some audiobooks which I’ve given up on because of the narrator alone, I was pleased by the narrator on this one; Jot Davies has a versatile voice, smooth and with a lot of dexterity. Read in the first person the narrator is integral to the story working.
Since finishing the audiobook I have read some reviews; although overall they are good, there are a few people who do not like the narrator. This is a very personal thing I believe. I found Jot Davies to be a delightful narrator who added to the story for me. Sadly, not everyone felt the same way.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a thought-provoking and intriguing story. It is one of the first truly existential pieces of literature that I’ve ‘read’, and enjoyed, in quite some time.
I can’t help but imagine what Stuart Turton’s office must have looked like whilst he was writing this book. The story is not limited to seven different timelines, there are also several other characters whose timelines are relevant and integral to the story, and both the ‘reader’ and Aiden’s ability to solve the mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder.
For me, I was totally enthralled by this story, I would happily have read/listened to this story all in one day, I was excited to get to the next host to find out the other perspectives of the timeline, to see if I could solve the murder before Aiden did.
Although there were some aspects of the mystery that I did solve, the main murderer was a total surprise. And my surprise was not limited just to the murder. This story contains many twists and turns relating to the identity of Aiden and his counterparts as well as the murder of Evelyn.
I found each of the characters to have depth and Stuart certainly explored many areas of the suspect’s lives, aspects which had a true impact on their place in this mystery.
I have seen this story compared to a cross between an Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Groundhog Day and Quantum Leap, all of which seem accurate to me. It is well written, contains twists and turns and I would certainly recommend this book in both audible and written form to anyone who likes a good mystery and a plot twist.
It has been compared to the Great Gatsby and I agree. Blackheath is a stately home out in the countryside. There are no real indications of which time period this story is set though, the only technology which is mentioned is an ancient record player and a car which is a little temperamental. No other technology, but in a place like Blackheath, this doesn’t actually narrow it down at all. Often people aim to get away from themselves when they stay in a place like Blackheath. I’d narrow it down to somewhere between the 1920s and 1980s.
The characters all have very different accents, but as it is written and read in the first person and accents aren’t really relevant to the plot, there is no real indication as to the location of Blackheath, it could be the UK, it could be the USA, the only place I know it isn’t based in, is Paris, as that is the only place specifically mentioned in the book.
This lack of location actually only adds to the mystery which surrounds the story and the mystery of Blackheath.
“It is meant to be a celebration, but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. but Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.
The only way to bread this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…”
This book was described to me as “A beautiful story” and I have to say, the bookseller was correct, it is indeed beautiful.
Boy Under Water is described as “A HEARTBREAKING, HEART-WARMING story about FAMILY, FRIENDS and SECRETS, Boy Underwater will probably make you CRY – and will definitely make you LAUGH.” which is a pretty accurate description as it goes. Seeing the world through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy really does give the reader a different perspective unless of course, you are a nine-year-old boy, in which case I feel you will be able to relate.
This is a book about a nine-year-old boy, written in a style which would make it easy for a nine-year-old boy to understand, but in language that an adult will also appreciate. It reminds me of being read to as a child. As I read through this story, I find myself reading in the voice of a nine-year-old boy, I make up voices for each of the characters in fact. This is not something I do consciously but something which I become aware of as I read through.
One of the things I love about this book is its ability to break the boundaries of a traditional book. There are whole pages which feature words, having fun. in fact, there is a whole chapter made up of one picture and 7 words. This is really the only giveaway, except for the size of the text, which tells you it is a book aimed at children.
I used to run the book section in an out of town W H Smith store and one tip my boss gave me was this; “If you can’t tell if it’s an adult or a kids book from the title, front cover or subject matter, then go by the size of the text”. This is not, of course, an exact science, but it is a good approximation, usually, one of the other aspects will give you a better idea but often it is a combination of several aspects.
My friend has an eight-year-old and I cannot wait for him to read this book, it is the kind of book which will be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Boy Under Water is illustrated by Benji Davies, an illustrator who has worked on numerous children’s books over the past ten years. His additions to the book are great and really add to the atmosphere and the storyline. I’d love to tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. So instead, here is a picture from one of the other books Benji has written and illustrated…
Adam Baron… has a light touch and brings humour to difficult subjects such as mental health. So, why not come in? The water’s lovely.
The Times – on Boy Underwater (edited quote to avoid spoilers)
I hadn’t even heard of Adam Baron before finding this book in my local Waterstones bookshop, but I am now most certainly going to be on the lookout for more of his work. His writing style is one which is inspiring, both pretty and ugly when the need arises and easy to read for both children and adults. This book is a children’s book and he most certainly does not talk down to them or shy away.
Yes, that is his name, something which is happy to point out and explain very early on in the book. Cymberline is the main character and the book is told from his point of view. He is competitive, friendly, nervous, thoughtful and good at sports, what more could you ask for from a nine-year-old hero. I found that I warmed to Cymberline very quickly, he is a loveable character and due to his age, you tend to overlook his flaws and his moments of nine-year-old annoyance, as you are seeing them from his point of view, you are seeing the other side to the tantrum.
Every school, every class has a girl like Veronique. A girl or boy who is years above the rest in educational development, someone who is so intelligent that they struggle to mix with their peers. Where it is possibly unlikely that a nine-year-old would understand stocks and shares to the level which Veronique does, she is portrayed very well by Baron. A girl whose intelligence is well beyond her years, but who has not learnt enough social graces to apply to adults who find her threatening.
Lance struggles with his name and his namesake’s reputation. A child of divorce, it is clear that this kid has learnt to bend the situation to his advantage, and fair play to him. I found that I felt sorry for Lance more than perhaps I should have.
The initial villain of the piece, your classic bully. But even Billy Lee has depth. Seeing things from a nine-year-olds perspective can really help you to see how horrible children can be. As an adult, the introduction and growth of Billy Lee’s character reminds us all that there is always more going on than meets the eye and no one really knows what another person is going through.
I won’t focus too heavily on the adults here. They, of course, make up a large part of the cast of this book and they push the story on. Without the adults, there would be no story, but they are also the ones which cause all the problems in Cymbeline’s eyes. The semi-alcoholic aunt, one workaholic uncle, one flakey uncle, a mother who is keeping secrets and a dead father, not to mention the teachers and other parents, Cymberline really struggles to get himself heard.
Having just finished this book today, I would totally recommend. It has twists and turns and gives a child’s perspective of some scenario’s which adults would try to hide from children, and as the story shows, children know more about what is going on that their parents suspect. Never underestimate a child when they get curious.
This is a well-written story from a point of view I’ve not very often read. It is a beautiful story and one which both children and adults will enjoy.
This talk was one of the author events from this year’s Hillingdon Culture Bites festival.
I was, of course, busy listening to these two talk, but I did manage to make a few notes. So below is a stripped down, paraphrased and heavily abridged version of my evening with Mark Billingham and Martyn Waites.
Martyn Waites discusses his new book
I’d describe it as Crime noir meets the wicker man. It is, like me, based in Cornwall. It is broadly speaking, about a remote community dying as result of Brexit and what they, as a community, would be willing to do to save themselves. It is based on a true story and I was inspired by something I once said about my recent move. “Living in Cornwall makes me feel like I’m in witness protection”
This book is the first of a new series.
Crime readers do not like it when they harm animals. This book has lots of harm to animals. No actual descriptions of violence, but it is based on the Croydon cat killer. I have had numerous conversations with the police force working on this case and it is absolute nonsense that it is foxes killing these cats.
One far-out theory that they had during the investigation was that the killings were being carried out by a crazed ornithologist. It’s always the peculiar little stories, not big headlines that inspire crime writers.
Martyn Waites – Ideas are not the hard bit. The trick is finding out which ones work.
Mark Billingham – I usually start with an opening scene, a scene which leaves me and the detective with lots more questions. The first chapter should leave you, the reader, asking questions. You need the first chapter to hook a reader.
Neither Mark nor Martyn are big planners now. Martyn says that he used to be meticulous in his planning, with whiteboards and sticky notes all over the place. But it’s more fun not to plan. Often times they will have their editors asking “What happens next?” or “What happens to such and such character?” and the answer is always “I couldn’t tell you, I don’t know yet.”
Writing as a job.
Mark Billingham – I do actually have a whiteboard in my office, do you know what it says?
It is as simple as that. No detailed plans of who my characters are or where the story is heading.
The reality is that writing is a job. Not a 9-5 job, but a job just like any other.
Both very down to earth guys, they tell it like it is.
Being a commercial crime writer
They go on to tell us about the timescales for commercial authors and the expectations of both the readers and the publishers. The basic gist is that a commercial crime writer is to publish about one novel per year and ususllay it occurs that whilst they are publicising their new novel, they are working on their next one.
Considering the nature of their work, they are both very humorous and they speak about how there is little rivalry amongst commercial crime writers, this is down to the readership being vast.
“Just because you read a Michael Connolly, it does not mean you won’t then go on to read a Mark Billingham. We love that about our readers. And it means we don’t have the same rivalry as other genres.” (I’m paraphrasing here).
Both Martyn and Mark say that crime writers have a lot of fun because of this. In fact, Bloody Scotland (the crime writers literary festival) sees a five-a-side football match and the authors tend to drink at the bar with the patrons, rather than at their own private bar in a screened off area.
When asked about the casting of one of his characters in the Thorne tv series, he states that he wasn’t his first choice either and some decisions were made about the character’s appearance based upon the actor’s preferences. Mark does go on to say though;
“Do you see Tom Cruise when you read a Reacher novel? No!”
And I agree. I was very sceptical about Jack Reacher Being played by Tom Cruise in the same way I was, and still am a little put out by Harry Bosch being played by Titus Welliver. That being said, I still watch and enjoy both.
Martyn has written six books under the pseudonym of Tania Carver. Why? Because he could. It all came about when his publicist agonised over the fact that he was lacking a high concept female thriller writer. Martyn to the rescue. He thought, I could do that, and so he did.
Which really does make an interesting divergence from the belief that women who write crime should write under a male name and men who write romance should write under a female name to get more fans. As discussed in my previous article Female authors are taking over, or are they?
Martyn says – As an actor, I learnt to say I could do anything and that is how Tania was born. Six novels later and she is still going strong.
He then tells us about her ‘coming out’ party which certainly gets the audience laughing.
This evening was a great night’s entertainment. A mixed audience of men and women, although an average age of about 50 with me being one of a handful of young people in the crowd, which really did surprise me. I suppose it just goes to show that reading for pleasure is still something that is predominantly done by the older generation. Or perhaps this was just a freak coincidence.
I have spent the weekend doing nothing. Which is great right? Well no, not if you attempting to start a business, run a successful blog or be a creative person, doing nothing is the opposite of a good weekend. I am attempting to do all of these things, so a weekend of doing nothing is, in fact, a failure, especially as I put in about 50 hours a week into my ‘day job’.
So in an attempt to claw back some semblance of a productive weekend, I started to read Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ speech. The theory being that it might kick start me into doing something creative.
Although some would say that this blog post wasn’t creative, I beg to differ. In today’s society, there are many mediums which would previously have been overlooked or brushed off which now fall under the creative banner. Blogging is one of those, but I started this blog in an attempt to get me writing on a more regular basis, the theory being that you need to write more to get better at writing.
After this, I will move on to my own authory projects and in fact whilst writing this blog post, I have collaborated with my flatmate on the layout for one of our business websites and booked myself onto a course about getting finding an agent and a publisher, so more productive in this last two hours than the whole of the rest of the weekend combined.
The Book of the Speech
This book is actually pretty interesting, much apart from the title, the words and the meaning behind those words which make up the speech itself, because this book is a work of Art.
I used to work in a bookshop (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before) and if this book had come into my store, I really would have struggled to work out where to put it.
Because it is not a conventional book. Some would call it a coffee table book, being of the nature of the design of your classic book designed to be left on a coffee table for people to read. However, it is not a dip in and out kind of book, which most coffee table books are…
But then even that is not quite right. This book is a very visual interpretation of a speech about making good art which Neil Gaiman gave to Philadelphia’s University of the Arts students in May 2012. The visual side provided by Chip Kidd.
And I have to say, it is full of good advice and statements which really do make you think about what it means to make art and who in fact you are making it for. So much so that, even though I am fairly certain that no one will actually read this blog post (I haven’t SEO’d the life out of it for a start) I am still writing it and putting it out into the big wide world for all to see. Which is exactly the point.
Don’t make art for the money! Make the art you want to make and make it for you!
So, if you don’t want to spend the £12.99 to purchase this speech turned into a work of art, then you are welcome to listen and watch the whole thing on Vimeo.
Much like his wife, Amanda Palmer, Neil knows the benefits of giving away some of his work for free, he knows the worth of his fans and he knows how to encourage loyalty amongst them.
Neil Gaiman is the critically acclaimed, award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, stories, graphic novels, children’s books, and screenplays. Originally from England, Gaiman now lives in the United States. He fears the Fraud Police.
[Taken from the back sleeve of the book]
See below speech by Amanda Palmer on the definition of Fraud Police.
Chip Kidd provides the graphics and design for this book. It certainly is a piece of art.
Chip Kidd is a graphic designer and writer in New York City. He tries to make good art, but mostly just makes mistakes. Whether or not any of them are interesting, amazing, glorious, or fantastic is anyone’s guess.
[Taken from back sleeve of the book]
So, if you have a spare half hour and are looking for some inspiration, then I suggest you grab a copy and give it a read.
Neil Cross has written nine books in total and for most, it would make sense either to start at the beginning or with one of the Luther novels. I, however, chose to read one of his stand-alone novels to get a better idea of his writing style.
I love it when books are combined with other media. If you’ve checked out my Instagram you’ll see that I do love a good multimedia tie-in. From Terry Pratchett, via Harry Potter all the way to The Rivers of London series, if there are different media versions or tie-ins in different media’s then I’m there. Give me a good film adaptation, a tv series or an audiobook and I’m there, combine it with a game, graphic novel and display models of characters and I am in love.
This way of supplementing the storylines of Luther with additional tie-in novels is really appealing. So why not choose one of those as my first Neil Cross reading experience? If I’m honest, I didn’t’ want to taint the experience with my love of Luther the TV series. I often find that if you love a character or a series of characters then you can ignore bad writing.
Take J K Rowling as an example, she has done amazingly well and has written a brilliant story which appeals to both adults and children alike, but I genuinely do not feel that the Harry Potter series would have been commissioned on book one and two alone. If she had not submitted the overall story arc for the series, I don’t think book three would have been picked up. I find the writing style in the first book to be pretty basic and actually quite terrible. It was only at book three that I really began to enjoy the reading experience. Book one and two are necessary for setting out the storyline and introducing the characters, but for anyone (over the age of about 14) who enjoys reading, I think these are a necessary chore.
And for that reason, I chose a stand-alone.
Burial has a very simple storyline
Can your guiltiest secret ever be buried?
Nathan has never been able to forget the worst night of his life: the party that led to the sudden, shocking death of a young woman. Only he and Bob, an untrustworthy old acquaintance, know what really happened and they have resolved to keep it that way. But one rainy night, years later, Bob appears at Nathan’s door with terrifying news, and old wounds are suddenly reopened, threatening to tear Nathan’s whole world apart. Because Nathan has his own secrets now. Secrets that could destroy everything he has fought to build. And maybe Bob doesn’t realise just how far Nathan will go to protect them…
[Synopsis is taken from the back cover of the book]
The story for Burial is a simple one, girl dies and secrets are kept. It spans a period of about ten years I think and although some of these years are covered with the cursory, years later, you can forgive Neil this as the main events are covered in great detail and within a matter of pages, he is able to paint a realistic picture of the relationships which develop in the years not documented. True to life, it is the mundane which shows the passing of time and the extraordinary events which shape the actions and relationships of the main characters.
Neil manages to make you feel the pain of loss which is felt by the death of this girl as well as the regret and fear of the lead characters.
Note from the author
I wanted to tell a story where things just keep getting worse and worse for the main character. I wanted to write about guilt and ghosts and murder. But mostly, I wanted to entertain people, and frighten them. I wanted to keep them awake until the early hours.
In this respect at least, it turns out that that Burial was pretty successful. My new editor Francesca and I kept a nightmare tally.
Did I find this book scary? At times it was a little spine-chilling yes. I think for me though, reading takes away some of the fear factor, I am in control and I know I can put the book down at any time.
I did, in fact, have one nightmare, but perhaps because I read this book in several sittings over a series of weeks, I was not continuously immersed in the world and the characters lives to the extent that I would have been if I read it all in one or two sittings.
I really enjoyed this book and found that putting it down was quite hard. Unlike some though, it was easy to pick up again without having to re-read pages to discover where I had gotten up to. Like many of his other books, I feel this story would translate really well into a TV production. The fact that Neil Cross writes for TV shows in his writing style. The more I read and discover about authors, the more I realise that you can tell those authors whose job revolves around writing and those who do it as a side project or hobby.
I may not be a homosexual American man facing turning fifty imminently, but I can still relate to the character of Arthur Less, as I think many of us can. Rather than face the uncomfortable truth that his lover of nine years has chosen to marry another man, Less embarks upon a trip around the world and whilst doing so, faces the prospect of turning fifty alone.
I’m not going to lie, this is where I see myself at 49, failed relationships haunting me, regret at life unlived, wanting to run away from my problems. Hell, that’s what I feel like already some days.
The only redeeming thing about Less is that he is a published author and even he feels as though that isn’t enough. His work on his current novel isn’t going well and really it is probably this, combined with the news of his ex’s wedding which pushes him to run away.
Who says you can’t run away from your problems?
Arthur Less is a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the post: it is from an ex-boyfriend of nine years who is engaged to someone else. Arthur can’t say yes – it would be too awkward: he can’t say no – it would look like defeat. So he begins to accept the invitations on his desk to half-baked literary events around the world.
From France to India, Germany to Japan, Arthur almost falls in love, almost falls to his death and puts miles between him and the plight he refuses to face. Less is a novel about mishaps, misunderstandings and the depths of the human heart.
Story and structure
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2018, this book is very well written. It paints a beautiful picture of each of the cities that Less visits and the people that he meets.
I found the structure of this book to be easy to read. Each chapter covers a different city or a different event in Less’s journey. It was a great book to read in amongst others, the subject matter was different to each of the other books I was reading at the time and the chapter structure made it easy to pick up and put down.
The writing is eloquent and the vocabulary used is most certainly award-winning. I found myself looking for my thesaurus just to feel more intellectual.
Is Less a loveable character? This is a hard question to answer, sometimes I found myself laughing, sometimes I found myself facepalming at the situations he seems to get himself into. And yet, he is lucky.
Less seems to find Love in one form or another in every city he visits. He is loved by his friends and his old flames and dalliances, rarely do you find a character this flawed who seems to land on his feet so often. Sure he has his major setbacks in life, but this just makes him more realistic.
Andrew Sean Greer has written six novels and a plethora of short stories. He has won many awards and Less has won him the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 2018.